classic, film, musical, must see

TV movie Review: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, 1997 version

I was planning on doing this at a later time, but as yesterday was the 20th Anniversary I kinda of feel obligated to write about one of my favorite version’s of this musical fairy tale. It is not only one of the best versions of the tale, but it opened eyes to how a story can be told. Cannot talk about this without spoiling, then again you probably know the story so what’s the point in saying beware.

Cinderella (Brandy) is living with her cruel stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her stepsisters Minerva (Natalie Desselle-Reid) and Calliope (Veanne Cox.) She is treated as a servant, but made a promise to her father they would stay together after he passed. One day in the market her imagination wanders, thinking of finding “the one” and almost gets run over by a carriage. She is helped by a handsome stranger and they quickly realize how much they have in common, not satisfied in their lives. They are drawn to each other until stepmother scolds her for talking to each other. As you can probably guess that stranger is the Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban.) He feels isolated in the palace with his only companion being Lionel his valet (Jason Alexander.)

His parents, more specifically his mother Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg), decide to throw him a ball to find a bride. Christopher wants to find love the old fashioned way, his father King Maximilian (Victor Garber) understands, but the Queen takes charge. The whole village prepares for the ball, including Cinderella’s stepmother for her daughters, not Cinderella who wishes to go. Prince Christopher eventually agrees to the ball, but makes his parents promise if he doesn’t find his love at the ball it will be on his own terms. The night of the ball Cinderella tearfully wishes to go to the ball, and her wish is granted by her sassy fairy godmother (Whitney Houston.) Shortly after arriving Cinderella and Prince Christopher fall in love, but at the stroke of midnight she takes off leaving her glass slipper. Cinderella’s stepmother realizes who that mysterious girl was at the ball and diminishes Cinderella and her father. The next day Christopher and Lionel search for her, and almost give up hope after the stepmother’s house, Cinderella wasn’t there having planned to run away. However once he leaves Christopher and Cinderella find each other and remember their first meeting. They shortly marry with Fairy Godmother watching from far away.

I’m sure you are thinking this, “what makes this version so much better than the others?” Well for starts that all star and diverse cast. Only in this film and in so many other Rodgers and Hammerstein productions (Broadway or film productions) will you see people of different ethic backgrounds in a musical, it is probably only in this film will you see an African American woman and a Caucasian man have a Filipino American son. But that is what many love about this film is how diverse the cast is, even critics who disliked the film at the time liked the diversity. The soundtrack is also absolutely incredible with songs from the original musical, but two additional songs. This version was a HUGE hit for ABC with 60 million watching this on it’s first night! It you were not one of those viewers please find this, I’m sure it is one YouTube somewhere this is an AWESOME version of the classic fairy tale.

classic, film, Holiday, musical, must see

Classic Movie Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

Once again I have to call this a classic because it is. One of my favorite musicals and favorite Judy Garland movies of all time, released in 1944; this might be her second best known work after Wizard of Oz. I’ll even tell you the best time to watch this film is around Christmas, which I will go into later. As always spoilers ahead.

Beginning in the summer of 1903 we are on a journey with the Smiths, a family living in St. Louis: Father Alonzo (Leon Ames), Mother Anna (Mary Astor), one son Lon Jr.(Henry H. Daniels Jr.) and four daughters Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Garland), Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) along with a house keeper Katie (Marjorie Main) and Grandpa (Harry Davenport.) The World’s Fair is a year away and the family is excited, Mr. Smith is questionable. Rose and Esther are struggling with their romantic lives; Rose is expecting her boyfriend Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully) to propose but he has yet to do so and Esther is hopelessly in love with the boy next door John Truett (Tom Drake). When Mr. Smith announces the family will move to New York, the family is devastated because their whole lives are in St. Louis and they will miss the Fair. I cannot go too far without giving away the rest of the movie, you just have to watch it.

This is a film consistently listed as one of the best musicals of all time, and I completely agree. Garland is one of the best actresses ever on film, and she shines just as bright in this film as her other work. However it takes a great ensemble and when it comes to musicals this cast is hard to beat. I also love the stories and how intertwined they are, at first it won’t make sense but give it a few moments and it will. Meanwhile the soundtrack has some of the best songs in a musical. Here are some of my favorites: “The Trolley Song” sung by a chorus of teenagers about the St. Louis trolley and Garland as she imagines about John and “The Boy Next Door” an almost single camera shot with Garland as she expresses her love for John. However there is a song from this film more famous than the film itself, and why you should watch it at Christmas. That song is called “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Yes, one of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs of all time came from this film. Just a heads up the lyrics for this film are different than other versions, you can thank Frank Sinatra for that, but nonetheless hearing Garland sing this song to Margaret O’Brien in this film is hauntingly beautiful. If you are not going to watch this film, although I’d put it on a must watch list, listen to the soundtrack. I promise you will not be disappointed.

classic, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Fiddler on the Roof

No matter how familiar you are with Broadway, or musicals in general, you had to have heard of this one. Based on the 1964 musical, this 1971 film is one of the few true adaptions of Broadway musicals, a few songs missing but the story still follows. It won three Oscars for the music and was nominated for several others, including Best Picture. As always beware of spoilers.

In the small village of Anatevka a poor Jewish milkman Tevye (Topol) constantly talks to God about his worries, most of which include his FIVE daughters and his wife Goldie (Norma Crane in her final role.) Tevye arranges for his eldest daughter Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris) to marry the wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann), but Tzeitel wants to marry her childhood sweetheart Motel (Leonard Frey). Tevye at first is not accepting of this because of traditions, but sees how much his daughter loves Motel and finds a way to get out of the arrangement. The second daughter Hodel (Michele Marsh) falls for Perchik (Michael Glaser) a radial Marxist and the third daughter Chava (Neva Small) falls for Fyedka (Raymond Lovelock) a Russian Christian; Tevye is NOT OK with one of these relationships. Meanwhile while the romantic problems are happening the Russian government’s presence in the village soon becomes dangerous, and the residents may be forced to leave. About as far as I can go without giving away the rest of the film.

When watching the film and seeing each character go through their problems, you can’t help but feel along with them (whether it is meant to be funny or heart-breaking.) At one point in the film when Tevye discovers one of his daughter’s marriage’s you see the hurt on his face and how much it pains him when he feels forced to disown her. I just want to be clear on a few things, I do not know if this can give someone an idea of the Jewish culture, so do not make any assumptions please. If you like musicals I would put this on your must watch list.

classic, film, must see

Classic Movie Review: Gone With The Wind

I have to put classic back up because that is exactly what this movie is. Based on the best selling book 1936, Oscar winning “Gone With The Wind” is always listed as one of the best films ever made even now, and this came out in 1939. I am going to do my best to summarize as there is A LOT that happens in this over 4 hour movie (I’m not kidding 4 hrs 15 min no commercials including overture, intermission, coming back music and closing music.)

Scarlet O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) lives at Tara, her family’s cotton plantation in Georgia and war is on the brink in the United States (Civil War to be precise.) She has always gotten whatever she wants, except for the man she loves; Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). She learns he is to be married, in accordance with family tradition, to a cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Scarlet and Melanie become friends, unwilling on Scarlet’s part but only for Ashley’s sake. Meanwhile a man comes in and out of Scarlet’s life: Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Scarlet and Rhett develop a strong love for one another, but she still pines for the one she cannot have. There is a lot more to this film, but best I could do without spoiling and summarizing.

This film took me about 2 weeks to finish after DVRing it off of Turner Classic Movies, and I was not disappointed. The story is so well written and the acting is some of the best I have seen in a movie or television. Going in you know Scarlet is going to be a pain, but what I did not expect was her to be so WHINY! Seriously I think a phrase which I will PG here, “whiny witch” was coined after this movie because of Scarlet. Nonetheless, Vivien Leigh was so good in this role which is why she won the Oscar. Clark Gable is suburb as Rhett Butler and the rest of the cast is just incredible. I won’t deny that this movie does have many problems given the time period, even by today standards, and it may make people uncomfortable. I actually would recommend looking up the movie before watching it just to know what you are getting in too. Is the film still one of the best of all time, absolutely without a doubt.

classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Moonstruck

One of the most romantic and successful films of the 1980’s, Moonstruck is a movie I had heard for a very long time before taking the time to DVR it. It was not what I expected it to be, but it was still one of the best written films I’ve seen in a long time. Nominated for six Oscars, and winning three for Best Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay, I all but guarantee you will enjoy the film. Spoilers ahead as usual.

Loretta Castorini (Cher), a 37 Italian-American book keeping widow from Brooklyn Heights becomes engaged to her boyfriend Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) despite not loving him. She wants to follow the traditions of a real wedding, believing that is what caused her husband’s death (I am not going to go into these superstitions because I am probably going to offend somebody.) Loretta’s father Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia) doesn’t like Johnny, while her mother Rose (Olympia Dukakis) says being in love will drive someone crazy. Leaving to tend to his dying mother in Sicily, Johnny asks Loretta to contact his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and invited him to the wedding. Loretta, after her previous attempt failed, goes to the bakery Ronny works at and soon learns of the bad blood between the brothers. While trying to get to the source behind Ronny’s anger, Loretta and Ronny fall into a deep love, although Loretta refuses to give in to her feelings for a very long time. I would say more, but I’d spoiler the rest of the movie.

As I’ve stated before as far as writing goes this is definitely one of the best I’ve seen, and I’m not saying it because of the Oscar. The stories that are told, main and side, have you paying attention in case it is important, and it is also very funny. While not everything has to do with the main plot, you do not care as the film progresses. The acting is also superb, Cher being one of the best actresses/singers of her generation and Nicholas Cage in one of his better works (which given his filmography says A LOT.) Cher is a natural on camera, and she shines so bright in this film (she won the Oscar after all.) Would I say this is her best? It would be hard to argue otherwise. Her family as well do fabulous in the film, Olympia Dukakis winning the Oscar for her role of Rose. My opinion, add this to your must watch list, if anything to watch Cher’s performance. Moonstruck is one of the funniest, well acted, well written films of the 80’s, maybe even all time, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. You disagree, “snap out of it!”

classic, Disney, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This is probably the first recognizable Disney movie I have written about. Almost every Disney article, or fan I know has said this movie, loosely based on the Victor Hugo novel, is heavily underrated and I 100% agree. While it is probably not as good as more well known Disney films I think this film should get the recognition it deserves. Once again if you have not seen this movie spoilers ahead.

In the 15th century Paris, France a story is recapped prior to the main plot, courtesy of the gypsy Clopin (Paul Kandel). A group of gypsies were sneaking into Paris but were caught by the self-righteous Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay) and his soldiers. Frollo hates gypsies and takes it upon himself and his troops to end them once and for all believe it to be his mission from God. A woman escapes with her baby and when trying to seek sanctuary in Notre Dame, Frollo catches up and kills the woman. He seems the baby is deformed, calling him a monster, and is about to drop the baby down a well before the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers) stops him. After be told he has sinned in front of the eyes of Notre Dame and he must atone for it, Frollo reluctantly cares for the child he names Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) which means half formed and places him in the bell tower to be hidden from the world, hence the title of the movie.

20 years pass and Quasimodo has grown into a kind man, but feels isolated in the bell tower with only three living gargoyles for company: Victor (Charles Kimbrough), Hugo (Jason Alexander) and Laverne (Mary Wickes in her final role). Quasimodo longs for a life outside the tower and during his favorite time of the year, the Festival of Fools where it is okay to be different, sneaks out. He is embraced by the people, and soon becomes smitten with Esmeralda (Demi Moore) a beautiful gypsy who treats him with kindness. Unfortunately thanks to Frollo the crowd turns on Quasimodo and he hides away back in Notre Dame. Esmeralda becomes a target for Frollo, not just because of her being a gypsy but because he has developed a lust for her, and Frollo demands she be found. Captain Phoebus (Kevin Kline), Frollo’s captain of the guards who does not approve of Frollo’s methods and has fallen for Esmeralda helps her and Quasimodo in their fight against the cruel judge. I cannot go more without spoiling, I am sorry.

Now if you haven’t seen this movie I’m sure you are thinking this: “This is a kids movie!” Yes, it is. Now as a child when I watched the movie I had no idea of the aspects that makes this a dark Disney film, but that’s it. When you are a kid you do not know any better, but then you watch the films as an adult and go “how did I miss that?” In just one music number alone it shows how dark this movie is, but that is what I think makes this film stand out. It is probably not a movie I would show a child until they are a little older, my opinion go seven and up.

Moving on, I absolutely love everything about this movie. The characters are so entertaining whether they are funny, conflicted or, in Frollo’s case, evil, they make you pay attention to movie. Quasimodo is a unique character, not saying that just because of his appearance, as he doesn’t let how he looks stop him. Esmeralda is probably my favorite non princess female as she refuses to let men like Frollo get to her. Phoebus is very different in this movie than in the novel as he is kinder and truly cares for Quasimodo and Esmeralda. The gargoyles are the comic relief of the film, and believe me hen I say it is needed. Frollo is one of Disney’s most evil villains as he basically wants to kill an entire population just because, and his lust for Esmeralda just makes him even more creepy. While it doesn’t follow Victor Hugo’s novel exactly, given it is a Disney movie not surprising, it does take the story and make it different, happier if you will.

The soundtrack is in my opinion one of Disney’s best. It doesn’t have any sappy love songs, or conquering hero ballads; instead the songs are often empowering and deep there is a message behind almost all the numbers. Even if you don’t see the movie, although you should, just listen to the soundtrack it is hauntingly beautiful. If you haven’t seen the movie, whether in a long time or never, it is so good. There was a sequel released almost six years later, which I actually plan on reviewing at a later time.

classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Ever After

There have been many stories, movies, TV shows and episodes that involve Cinderella. One could argue what is the best version of the classic fairy tale, but it would be hard not to include this version, maybe not at the very top but pretty high up there. Spoilers ahead.

This film is actually a story within a story as the Brothers Grimm were invited to meet with a Grande Dame in the 19th century. She has read their stories and had a problem with the story of Cinderella, telling them the story of Danielle de Barbarac (Drew Barrymore).

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Danielle was a young girl when she lost her father suddenly, forced to become a servant in her home because of her stepmother Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston) and her stepsister Marguerite (Megan Dodds.) Her other stepsister Jacqueline (Melanie Lynskey) is kind to her, but is picked on by her family who, thanks to Rodmilla, is heavy in debt. One day when picking apples Danielle sees someone stealing her father’s horse and throws an apple at him, only to realize he is Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) a man trying to avoid the responsibility of marrying a woman he does not care for. He buys Danielle’s silence, but is soon caught after stopping gypsies from robbing (yes you are reading this name correctly) Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey). Henry is able to convince his father to hold off on the engagement until he finds a bride at the night of a ball honoring da Vinci. Meanwhile Danielle dresses as a noblewoman to save a fellow servant form being sold off using Henry’s money. Henry is able to help out, but does not recognize her. Danielle and Henry spend time together and it is not long before they fall in love. Once discovered, thanks to her stepmother lies, Henry rejects Danielle. Danielle is then sold off to another man Pierre le Pieu (Richard O’Brien) by Rodmilla to get out of debt and free of Danielle, but she rescues herself from the creep. Henry realizes his huge mistake and goes to Danielle. Rodmilla and Marguerite pay for their cruelty while happily ever afters happen for Danielle and Henry.

If you haven’t seen this movie this is probably what you are thinking: “Sounds almost like every version of Cinderella right, well what makes this different?” For starters it was not love at first sight with Danielle and Henry, but when Danielle dresses up and tries to save her friend, that is when Henry notices her. He does fall for Danielle for who she is, but after discovering her somewhat deceit it takes a while for him to get past his bruised ego. Danielle also has another unwanted suitor in Le Pieu, but unlike other versions of the story, Danielle rescues herself. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with classic versions of Cinderella of her waiting for the prince. I loved how Danielle did not need the prince to save her. I also love when Cinderella and the Prince actually have a relationship prior to the ball. Another stand-out, and this is more frequent now, is one of the step sisters is actually nice to Danielle. Jacqueline gets her just due in the end.

This is one of my favorite fairy-tale movies of all time, yes that includes Disney, and the cast is perfect. My grandfather said I looked like Drew Barrymore in ET when I was a kid, so she has always been someone I look for in films. Would I say this is her best work? Up for heavy debate but it has to be high up there. Dougray Scott is somewhat charming in this movie, would have been fully if not for the ball, as Henry. The stepsisters are great but of course a big standout is Anjelica Huston as the evil stepmother. A fine actress is there ever was one, Huston is an absolute joy to watch.

If you like fairy-tale movies or somewhat modern romances than this is perfect for you. Another highly recommend movie from me.